Editorial: International Affairs cultivated care on campus
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Last Friday, the Center for International Affairs hosted a celebration of diversity in the lobby of Tomlinson Hall to kick off Case Western Reserve University’s own #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign. A printout of the hashtag was plastered on the wall, under multinational flags and next to messages encouraging humanity and compassion. The center also offered students a chance to record a welcoming message on video.
The hashtag began on social media after Jan. 27 in direct opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The executive order has been temporarily halted due to Judge James Robart’s ruling in The State of Washington v. Trump and is currently awaiting judgment from the Supreme Court.
The executive order earns its label of islamophobic in section 5(b) which prioritizes religious minority travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The seven previously listed countries are all Muslim-majority, effectively restricting the travel of Muslim immigrants and nonimmigrants beyond that of a religious minority.
Because of the discriminatory nature of the executive order, it has proven to be controversial and divisive. In Cleveland, many residents and CWRU students have responded by joining protests that advocate against racism and bigotry. Outside of Kelvin Smith Library last semester, students chanted “No Trump, No KKK, no racist USA.”
In hosting the #YouAreWelcomeHereCWRU movement, The Center for International Affairs used the same ideology from protests, fueled by the presence of bigotry in this country and the threat of discriminatory legislation. However, they transformed it into an event of enjoyment instead of one of dealing with harsh realities. While identities may be political, celebrating culture and identities in a non-political way fosters a positive environment that is inclusive for all students.
And it is imperative for the university to make such a statement. On Feb. 2, as President Barbara Snyder and Provost William Baeslack sent out an email reiterating CWRU’s core values. This time, students are calling for the administrators to take a specific stance: stand with the immigrants. Students are not merely the capital of the university, but are humans who deal with the issues that arise from race, gender, religion and sexuality. In any decision involving students, these should be thought of and considered.
The Center of International Affairs has reified the university’s commitment to the students, even in the face of one of the president’s executive orders. Their stance is necessary in a climate where xenophobia and islamophobia are reinforced by the nation’s highest ranking official. It is imperative that the university follow through with demonstrating their commitment to all students. Islamophobia, racism, sexism and xenophobia all occur in our society, and CWRU must work to avoid these becoming larger issues on campus. Part of the work is hosting events such as this, where the dialogue keeps going and the positivity is palpable.
However, there are those who may see #YouAreWelcomeHereCWRU as unjustified opposition to President Trump. The connotation that diversity may be antithetical to Trump’s policies is implied in the event, which juxtaposes itself in direct opposition to the president. They may worry that the association with Trump will damage their reputation and social life.
We should not look to judge Trump supporters collectively, but as individuals. Support of Trump does not equate to support for all of Trump’s actions, though Trump’s supporters and Trump himself have placed him in the situation he currently is in. With topics as sensitive as religion and immigration, words must be chosen out of truthfulness, respect and prudence.
In hosting the diversity event, The Center for International Affairs has demonstrated their care for all students.